For any trekker, the joy of crossing over a pass and setting foot onto a new valley is magnificent. Passes afford the best views of the whole trail, are the sources of watersheds which keep us hydrated through the whole journeys and the best part, once you reach a high mountain pass, the exhilaration is almost unparalleled, only next to summiting a mountain.
By definition, A Mountain Pass is the highest point of the lowest possible route to connect two valleys. Its the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks and exists on the line of the watershed between them, through which water flows down into the two valleys. Passes are known as a Pass, Col, Saddle, Notch; with slightly different definitions but used interchangably in many cases.
For years, mountain passes have been important routes for trade between civilizations since long. Important centres of trade have developed around the base of the passes, allowing traders to rest, barter their products and reach markets. Passes have also been used extensively for migration, permanent or seasonal, of people. Also, with the mountain ranges always presenting formidable barriers, Mountain passes have been used for war beyond the mountain ranges since long.
The height of a peak from a Pass is the prominence of the peak, which is the minimum height required to ascend a mountain after climbing down from a higher peak.
In Ladakh and Tibet region, passes are known as La, thus the names Khardung La, Chang La, Nathu La, Marsimik La etc.
A few famous passes known as Cols are Auden's Col above Gangotri , South Col linking Everest & Lhotse etc.
A ragged Col which is unsuitable to be crossed as a mountain Pass is called a notch. These are generally only used as climbing routes or sometimes for Mule crossings.
Key Passes on some treks:
Goecha LaTrek - Goecha La is a pass at a height of 4900m feet in Sikkim which also acts as the Base camp for climbing Kanchendzonga.
RupshuValley Trek - Shingbuk La (5016m) on the trail from Rumtse Monastery to Tso Kar and Kyamayuru La (5125m) on the way from Tso Kar to Tso Moriri are the two main passes on this trek. In all, the trek has 6 mountain passes ranging from 4700m to 5100m.
Kashmir Lake Trek - Gadsar Pass and Zach Pass are the highest and the most maginifecent passes on this trail, both commanding views of different sets of twin lakes. There are a total of 4 passes and more than 7 lakes on this trek.
Tarsar-MarsarTrek - The trek involves walking to the base of Kolahoi Glacier and then traverse through the twin lakes of Tarsar and Marsar through the Tarsar Pass at 4100m. The trek starts at the beautiful meadows of Aru in Pahalgam and ends at Sumbal near Sonmarg.
Stok KangriTrek - A 6000m summit, the shorted route to Stok goes straight up via Stok village towards the mountain. The longer route, through Markha Valley allows for more time to acclimatize and the goes through 2 mountain passes before reaching the base camp. The highest pass is Shang Phu La at a height of 4950m.
Thamsar Pass Trek - This trek goes to the top of Thamsar Pass and Thamsar Lake situated next to it. This pass is the link to Bara Bangal village, an isolated village situated deep in the valley next to Ravi River, 15 km from Thamsar Pass. Their is no roadway to Bara Bangal and thus, Thamsar Pass is used as a trade and supplies route for the village.